Fanning the Flame

Recovery is hard work. One usually begins with desperate enthusiasm and skin-deep optimism, especially if they’ve recently hit  bottom wanting to escape the nightmare of substance abuse in its many forms. Often a small flicking flame of hope is their closest companion as they adjust to life in the scary unfamiliarity of a recovery program. That’s usually when we meet the ladies at the Lighthouse, a year-long faith-based residential substance abuse treatment program, where my art partner and I do weekly therapeutic art workshops.

It was definitely where we met Kathy several months ago. Withdrawn and depressed, she sat quietly in a corner. I was drawn to the honesty of her artwork which was primarily black. Yet there were small squiggles of color which she said represented her three kids. It was their “squiggliness” that kept her from sinking deeper into the blackness of her depression. Time has passed. Kathy is slowly emerging from her overwhelming blackness. That was apparent at last Friday’s art workshop.

Our art activity for the day was to create fans – visual reflections focused on fanning the flames of their recovery so their hope will burst into full flame. Both sides of the chip board fan could be decorated so it was an ideal activity to create compare and contrast images. Kathy’s dramatic black and white images were a perfect example. One side showed the monster of depression swallowing her alive.  

The other side revealed words and phrases of self-loathing on the left; a previous preoccupation with money and concerns of the flesh. But the right side reveals the progress Kathy is making in her recovery. Simply put she is devotedly keeping her eye on the Source of her recovery so that when times are tough she can be prepared to bring hope – to herself and others. For her, that hope includes the concrete task of learning to tame her tongue. I suspect that’s a flame all of us could fan!

Sensing a shift in the blackness of her art, I inquired, “Kathy, I’m noticing you’re images seem to be a balance of black and white. Was that intentional?” Confidently she said, “Yes!”  I was delighted by the growing reflective thoughtfulness of her creative process. She was, perhaps unknowingly, tending her flame.

Shortly after that exchange she found the words “The Beauty of Black & White” in a collage box which she then added as the finishing touch to her fan. For Kathy, fanning the flame of her recovery was reflecting on where she’d been months ago when she entered the Lighthouse and where she is now in the process of her recovery.  The tiny flickering flame is becoming more robust. And able to glow and add warmth to others coming in out of the dark, cold world of substance abuse. That’s a flame worthy of fanning.

If you’ve experienced a time of great blackness, what helped you fan a flickering flame of hope? Is there a flame of hope now that needs fanning? Yours or another’s? Is there someone you’re being called to fan? If you were to create your own fan for fanning the flames of recovery, healing and transformation, what would it look like?

I’m looking forward to your comments.

Here are some of the other collages created to fan the flames of recovery and hope.






6 comments to Fanning the Flame

  • Carl McDonald

    I am so enjoying your posts. Recently I moved to a lovely new location which is ocean front. The apt needs a lot of fixing up and I was especially discouraged last week when water seeped into the bedroom and the carpet was damp, along with my bedding. The electric fan and now dehumidifier seem to have dried it out, but this posting of fanning the flame has inspired me to consider making a collage. I am enjoying decorating but have so many things I want to incorporate, that a collage may be just the trick.

  • Judy Siudara

    A fabulous art project.Thanks for sharing this. I am currently involved in a 3-way blog w/ 2 high-school classmates of mine(50 years ago!)about the state of the world and our personal part and responsibility in that. One participant is an atheist and the other is a panexperiencialist,ala Whitefield. We’re really getting into the spiritual aspects of our individual beliefs and i feel I am fanning the flames of something great for these 2, as well as for me. And I was the one who contacted one w/ a forward and look where I am now w/ it!

  • Back in my Sally Army days we used to sing a chorus – “Fan the flame, fan the flame in me.” I love that while we need God’s help in the fanning of our flames, that what we construct our fans with and how we use them also has a great impact on our lives.

    In the Celtic tradition, women were referred to hearth-tenders. They took the responsibility of tending the fire throughout the day and making sure it only was quenched on particular holy days – only to be re-kindled. They were very good flame fanners – just as I need to be.

  • Nothing short of inspiring. Thank-you for the words and beautiful, poignant visuals. Connie

  • cynthia thomas

    4 weeks ago i joined a women’s book study at my church. we’re reading “the way of grace”, published by companions in christ. i’m fanning the flame of what i’m learning by doing the reading & writing assignments each week. i’ve been struggling with accepting the life i’ve been given & have had alot of anger towards god. i also need to continue working on a wall hanging that is a spral of yarns, it represents my need to wait & see how god is unfolding my life & the good that will come from it (if i’ll cooperate even a little bit). already i’m seeing fruits of my effort. i’m starting to trust god again in the small stuff. cynthia

  • Sara Blackburn

    That is an incredible project! I really really like it. It provides for such deep reflection in a fairly simple way! It would be interesting to use dowel rods and a large piece of art paper to make a really big fan that a group could work on. It would be interesting to see what could come from a group with a project like that!

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